By John E. Turner, LMFT and Sally Connolly, LMFT
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Sometimes couples get stuck around a specific issue and neither one is willing to budge. Even trying all of the “fighting fair” suggestions seems to lead nowhere. The stalemate may be around a big issue such as whether or not to have children, making a big purchase, where to live. It may also be about a smaller issue that seems to go round and round with little change such as who takes out the garbage or does the dishes. Each person feels misunderstood, disappointed and even angry. The fighting escalates and often turns in to criticism, nagging, defensiveness and may become hurtful.

Some suggestions:

  • Find a time to talk when you are both calm.
  • Try to have the discussion in a different place, like at a restaurant or outside on the deck.
  • Reach for compromise. If there is anything that you can offer that might feel like a compromise for your spouse, be sure to offer it.
  • Think about what the “must haves” parts of the issue are for you … and what are the things that less important.
  • Get a clear understanding from your partner about what her side is all about. Find out why this position is so important. What does it mean to him in his life? Be sure to get the full picture. Listen to your spouse and try to let her know that you really do understand why this position is so important to her. Tell yourself that you want to really understand the other side completely … and make sure that your partner feels that you really do understand (even if you do not agree) before sharing your ideas. It is often from a truly deep understanding that people are able to move closer to each other.
A friend, Susan, recently told me a story about herself and her husband, Tom. She said that Tom got up early every morning and plugged in the coffee pot. After his shower, he would pour a cup for himself and then come back to the bedroom to finish dressing as Susan was getting out of bed. Susan was hurt … and angry that Tom never poured a cup for her and brought it back with him. Tom thought that Susan was just being lazy … after all, she could easily walk the few steps to the kitchen and pour her own coffee. Both thought that the other one was really being ridiculous about this … and it was amazing how angry each became when they talked about this subject. Sometimes it ruined a whole day for them.

One night, Tom and Susan were walking together around the neighborhood and Susan brought up their constant fight about morning coffee. She started out by saying that she did not want to start a fight; rather she just wanted Tom to know how she was feeling about the morning coffee. She told him that that small act of bringing her coffee would mean so much more to her than the coffee. She knew, of course, that it would be easy for her to get it for herself, however, his simple act of bringing it to her was something that said to her that she was special to him … special enough to think about her and do something kind because he loved her. Tom said that now he never forgets to pour Susan a cup of coffee when he pours his own.

Feel like you and your partner are at a stalemate?  Want help getting "unstuck"?  We can help.  Click here to be taken to our enrollment page and we can begin now.

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